The Journal of Extension - www.joe.org

October 2017 // Volume 55 // Number 5 // Tools of the Trade // 5TOT5

Maximizing Use of an Extension Beef Cattle Data Set: Part 3—Weights and Growth

Abstract
Previously, we described calving distribution and reproductive rates from CHAPS20Y, an Extension beef cattle data set. In this article, we describe CHAPS20Y data on birth weight, weaning weight, pounds weaned per cow exposed, calf age at weaning/weighing, average daily gain, weight per day age, frame score, and cow age, weight, and condition. Yearly mean weights and growth are consistent over the 20-year period, with variation among herds. Breed, management, and environmental differences may explain some of the variation. Our analysis of the CHAPS20Y data provides Extension professionals with expanded knowledge of beef cattle weights and growth and, accordingly, improved ability to help producers more effectively manage their herds.


Jennifer M. Ramsay
Beef Data Specialist
Dickinson Research Extension Center
North Dakota State University
Dickinson, North Dakota
jennifer.m.ramsay@ndsu.edu

Lauren L. Hulsman Hanna
Assistant Professor
Department of Animal Sciences
North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota
lauren.hanna@ndsu.edu

Kris A. Ringwall
Extension Livestock Specialist and Director
Dickinson Research Extension Center
North Dakota State University
Dickinson, North Dakota
kris.ringwall@ndsu.edu

Introduction

We used data from Cow Herd Appraisal Performance Software (CHAPS) to create CHAPS20Y, a 20-year data set spanning from 1994 through 2013, as an Extension tool for understanding trends in beef production (Ramsay, Hulsman Hanna, & Ringwall, 2016). In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we described CHAPS20Y calving distribution and reproductive rate data (Ramsay, Hulsman Hanna, & Ringwall, 2017a, 2017b). In this article, we describe data related to

  • birth weight;
  • weaning weight (actual and adjusted);
  • calf age at weaning/weighing (days), hereafter referred to as calf age;
  • average daily gain (ADG);
  • weight per day age (WDA);
  • pounds weaned per cow exposed to bull(s), hereafter referred to as pounds weaned;
  • frame score;
  • cow age (years);
  • cow weight; and
  • cow condition.

Knowledge gained from examining CHAPS20Y weight and growth data will allow Extension professionals to help producers set and achieve herd management goals. Herein, we present yearly means, 20-year averages, and linear trends over time.

Describing Weight and Growth Data

Weight and Growth Calculations

The CHAPS program calculates values for weight and growth variables according to Beef Improvement Federation (2010) guidelines and recommendations put forth by Ringwall and Berg (1990). Those variables and the applicable calculations are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.
Calculations for Weight and Growth Variables

Calf Weights

Figures 2–4 show CHAPS20Y birth and weaning weight data. Yearly mean birth weights ranged from 81 to 90 lb, with a 20-year average of 86 lb. Yearly mean actual weaning weights ranged from 518 to 580 lb, with a 20-year average of 551 lb. Adjusted 205-day weights ranged from 580 to 646 lb, with a 20-year average of 621 lb. Pounds weaned ranged from 453 to 512 lb, with a 20-year average of 490 lb. Bull weaning weights ranged from 564 to 624 lb, with a 20-year average of 598 lb. Heifer weights ranged from 504 to 560 lb, with a 20-year average of 533 lb. And, finally, steer weights ranged from 525 to 593 lb, with a 20-year average of 563 lb.

Figure 2.
Yearly Mean Birth Weights with 20-Year Average Trend Line


Figure 3.

Yearly Mean Actual and Adjusted 205-Day Weaning Weights and
Pounds Weaned per Cow Exposed (Pounds Weaned)
with 20-Year Average Trend Lines


Figure 4.

Yearly Mean Bull, Heifer, and Steer Weaning Weights with 20-Year Average Trend Lines

Calf Age and Growth

Data related to calf age and growth are shown in Figures 5–7. Yearly mean calf ages ranged from 182 to 198 days, with a 20-year average of 191 days. Yearly mean ADGs ranged from 2.3 to 2.6 lb, with a 20-year average of 2.5 lb, and WDAs ranged from 2.7 to 3.0 lb, with a 20-year average of 2.9 lb. Frame scores ranged from 5.3 to 6.1, with a 20-year average of 5.7.


Figure 5.

Yearly Mean Calf Ages at Weaning/Weighing with 20-Year Average Trend Line


Figure 6.

Yearly Mean Average Daily Gains (ADGs) and Weights per Day Age (WDAs) with 20-Year Average Trend Lines


Figure 7.

Yearly Mean Frame Scores with 20-Year Average Trend Line

Cow Age, Weight, and Condition

Figures 8 and 9 show data for cow age, weight, and condition. Yearly mean cow ages ranged from 5.3 to 5.8 years, with a 20-year average of 5.6 years. Yearly mean cow weights ranged from 1,315 to 1,479 lb, with a 20-year average of 1,412 lb, and cow conditions ranged from 4.8 to 6.5, with a 20-year average of 5.8.

Figure 8.
Yearly Mean Cow Ages (Years) with 20-Year Average Trend Line


Figure 9.

Yearly Mean Cow Conditions and Weights with 20-Year Average Trend Lines

Variation in Herd Numbers

Not all producers providing data for CHAPS measure birth weights, bull and steer weights, frame scores, and cow weights and condition scores. Table 1 shows numbers of herds for which these weight and growth data were available as compared to the numbers of herds for which other types of data, discussed here and in Parts 1 and 2 of this series, were available.

Table 1.
Numbers of Herds Used to Calculate Yearly Means for Birth Weight, Bull and Steer Weight, Frame Score, and Cow Weight and Condition, and Other Types of Data

Year Birth weight Bull weight Steer weight Frame score Cow weight Cow condition score Other data
1994 22 7 31 10 1 0 33
1995 24 8 38 10 3 1 39
1996 27 8 41 12 3 1 43
1997 34 12 44 14 4 1 49
1998 34 12 46 12 4 1 51
1999 34 14 52 13 3 1 54
2000 39 15 52 12 6 1 56
2001 36 16 54 14 7 3 59
2002 38 15 56 12 5 2 59
2003 40 13 61 13 3 1 64
2004 45 16 62 11 7 3 65
2005 49 20 64 10 6 3 70
2006 49 21 61 9 7 4 65
2007 48 18 62 8 7 3 68
2008 49 16 60 11 7 4 66
2009 40 13 56 9 7 4 62
2010 38 12 54 8 6 4 58
2011 37 14 51 9 5 3 56
2012 30 14 45 7 5 3 49
2013 25 11 36 5 3 2 40

Yearly Minimums and Maximums

To demonstrate herd-to-herd variation in the CHAPS20Y data set, we present yearly herd minimums and maximums for birth weight (Table 2), weaning weight and pounds weaned (Table 3), bull, steer, and heifer weight (Table 4), calf age, ADG, and WDA (Table 5), frame score (Table 6), and cow age, weight, and condition (Table 7).

Table 2.
Minimum and Maximum Birth Weights (Pounds)

Year Birth weight
Min. Max.
1994 78 100
1995 77 102
1996 75 101
1997 70 97
1998 75 99
1999 75 97
2000 76 96
2001 76 96
2002 77 96
2003 75 99
2004 75 100
2005 68 98
2006 65 98
2007 70 97
2008 70 97
2009 71 99
2010 71 99
2011 68 98
2012 64 92
2013 73 91
Table 3.
Minimum and Maximum Actual and Adjusted 205-Day Weaning Weights (Pounds) and Pounds Weaned

Year Actual weaning weight Adjusted 205-day weight Pounds weaned per cow exposed
Min. Max. Min. Max. Min. Max.
1994 431 674 526 730 384 613
1995 414 721 541 696 336 641
1996 397 690 485 658 305 605
1997 390 755 441 681 283 647
1998 448 680 455 701 345 652
1999 427 685 456 694 364 625
2000 418 658 448 681 317 629
2001 449 654 466 691 362 588
2002 420 689 488 707 374 656
2003 433 652 492 743 356 625
2004 416 740 511 737 360 663
2005 483 675 500 726 285 618
2006 424 710 515 741 380 666
2007 435 708 502 754 364 647
2008 419 687 499 795 363 630
2009 453 777 488 749 338 720
2010 440 726 511 730 349 666
2011 453 673 516 718 313 618
2012 424 649 516 743 368 602
2013 463 668 502 712 320 642
Table 4.
Minimum and Maximum Bull, Steer, and Heifer Weaning Weights (Pounds)

Year Bull weight Steer weight Heifer weight
Min. Max. Min. Max. Min. Max.
1994 454 713 419 698 423 649
1995 573 711 431 737 395 706
1996 532 639 401 737 390 650
1997 404 654 410 787 372 716
1998 455 697 305 699 420 664
1999 454 708 439 680 413 708
2000 456 673 431 687 407 633
2001 493 688 457 692 436 622
2002 435 686 449 709 404 669
2003 400 683 445 686 420 618
2004 431 710 419 767 413 693
2005 444 718 459 703 465 649
2006 425 744 423 727 408 687
2007 507 694 448 733 411 681
2008 526 752 433 723 400 655
2009 537 689 470 798 451 752
2010 485 690 430 765 423 688
2011 533 691 421 682 445 662
2012 439 702 440 681 416 628
2013 524 659 477 691 445 646
Table 5.
Minimum and Maximum Calf Ages at Weaning/Weighing (Days), Average Daily Gains (ADG) (Pounds), and Weights per Day Age (WDA) (Pounds)

Year Calf age ADG WDA
Min. Max. Min. Max. Min. Max.
1994 148 238 2.1 3.0 2.4 3.5
1995 152 243 2.1 2.8 2.5 3.3
1996 146 235 1.8 2.7 2.2 3.1
1997 149 265 1.6 2.7 2.1 3.3
1998 159 250 1.8 2.9 2.1 3.3
1999 156 244 1.7 2.7 2.1 3.3
2000 154 235 1.9 2.8 2.0 3.3
2001 150 233 2.0 2.8 2.2 3.3
2002 150 240 2.0 2.9 2.3 3.4
2003 139 224 1.9 3.1 2.3 3.7
2004 136 238 2.1 3.0 2.4 3.5
2005 151 232 1.9 2.9 2.3 3.4
2006 133 240 1.9 3.1 2.4 3.6
2007 134 268 2.0 3.1 2.2 3.5
2008 137 241 2.0 3.3 2.3 3.7
2009 154 271 1.9 3.0 2.2 3.5
2010 139 255 1.8 3.0 2.3 3.5
2011 150 265 1.7 2.9 2.4 3.4
2012 157 227 1.8 3.1 2.4 3.5
2013 158 259 1.8 2.9 2.3 3.3
Table 6.
Minimum and Maximum Frame Scores

Year Frame score
Min. Max.
1994 4.3 7.6
1995 4.4 6.3
1996 4.7 6.1
1997 3.7 7.3
1998 4.4 6.4
1999 4.4 6.4
2000 4.5 6.1
2001 4.6 6.1
2002 4.8 7.9
2003 4.6 7.5
2004 4.9 6.8
2005 5.0 6.7
2006 5.0 6.3
2007 4.8 6.5
2008 4.1 8.1
2009 4.3 6.5
2010 4.9 6.4
2011 4.2 6.6
2012 5.2 5.9
2013 4.4 6.0
Table 7.
Minimum and Maximum Cow Ages (Years), Cow Weights (Pounds), and Cow Conditions

Year Cow age Cow weight Cow condition
Min. Max. Min. Max. Min. Max.
1994 3.2 6.6 1,421 1,421
1995 3.9 6.8 1,266 1,407 6.5 6.5
1996 3.9 6.6 1,218 1,457 6.2 6.2
1997 3.8 6.5 1,316 1,456 6.0 6.0
1998 4.0 7.0 1,293 1,442 5.7 5.7
1999 3.6 7.0 1,279 1,492 5.9 5.9
2000 4.0 7.9 1,195 1,487 5.1 5.1
2001 3.5 7.5 1,304 1,497 4.3 5.5
2002 4.0 8.1 1,279 1,599 4.9 6.1
2003 4.0 7.6 1,231 1,618 6.0 6.0
2004 2.7 8.0 1,335 1,589 5.3 6.2
2005 2.8 7.8 1,272 1,599 5.0 6.1
2006 2.9 7.9 1,243 1,609 5.4 6.0
2007 4.2 8.5 1,218 1,559 5.2 5.9
2008 4.3 8.2 1,276 1,591 5.1 6.5
2009 4.4 8.2 1,169 1,598 5.0 6.7
2010 4.6 8.3 1,252 1,581 5.2 7.0
2011 4.4 7.8 1,290 1,574 5.3 7.0
2012 4.6 7.5 1,351 1,681 5.1 7.1
2013 2.8 6.8 1,339 1,527 5.1 5.8

Using CHAPS20Y Weight and Growth Data to Increase Extension Knowledge

Weights, growth, and ages were consistent across the years addressed by CHAPS20Y, as indicated by the horizontal trend lines throughout the figures, but we identified wide ranges between herd minimums and maximums. Herein we outline some possible causes of these variations.

Calf Weight and Growth

CHAPS20Y weights and growth figures varied up to twofold between herds. Pre- and postnatal calf nutrition is important in determining calf weights and growth potential (Greenwood & Cafe, 2007) and may explain some of the variation in the data. CHAPS20Y producers used numerous breeds, and breed affects weights and growth potential (Gregory, Cundiff, & Koch, 1991; Szabó et al., 2006). Weather, which varied across years and herd locations, also affects weights and growth. Cooler growing seasons increase growth rate from birth to weaning (MacNeil & Vermeire, 2012), whereas elevated temperatures can cause maternal heat stress, decreasing birth weight (Hansen, 2009). Moreover, calf age at weaning affects weight gains and yields. Research has shown that steer calves weaned early gain more body weight over time, resulting in greater ADGs and WDAs (Llewellyn et al., 2013).

Cow Age, Weight, and Condition

Cow age affects cow weight and condition. Younger and older cows have special nutritional requirements related to attaining or maintaining weight and condition (Ringwall, 2014). Cow weight and condition, in turn, affect calf weight and growth. Cows that are 5 to 8 years old tend to produce and wean heavier calves than younger or older cows do (Renquist, Oltjen, Sainz, & Calvert, 2006).

Reduced Herd Data

The reduced number of producers who measured all weight benchmarks reflects the time, expense, and difficulty of record keeping (Ringwall, 2015). However, Extension professionals should encourage producers to measure these benchmarks because they affect growth and reproduction. Calves with above-average birth weights have greater survival, growth, and reproductive potential than calves with below-average birth weights (Funston, Larson, & Vonnahme, 2010). In addition, reproductive performance is optimal in cows with a condition score of at least 5 (Herd & Sprott, 1998).

Conclusion

The CHAPS20Y tool has yielded data that we have used to increase the Extension knowledge base. We have outlined some of the factors affecting weights and growth, providing information Extension professionals can use to help beef producers set and achieve herd management goals.

Acknowledgments

We thank Lee Tisor, Wanda Ottmar, and Michelle Stolz for their management of the CHAPS database.

References

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